Real life, you’re making it hard for me to get used to you. You make me feel like a baby – sleep and eat, sleep and eat, sleep, sleep. I slept most of the day yesterday, but I think I’m back on track.
It’s been a bit interesting trying to readjust. I forgot what it was like for the sun to bake my skin, and I didn’t know how to dress to go to the movies with my mom. I was getting annoyed at my usual amount of text messages, and it seemed weird to have a phone for the first time in two weeks. For now, our TV isn’t working, but it’s not like I watched that much anyway. I’m waiting for the DirecTV people to arrive while mom is at work before heading off to lunch with Megan and Shesh (wooot some cheese dip in my future), so it looks like I’ll be on the path to normalcy soon enough.
Ready for story time? I don’t have many pictures to catch you up, so it’s going to be a long book as usual. If you tire of reading, I’m sorry, but I’m doing this partly for myself anyway 🙂
So anyway, Friday wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Besides the fact that I didn’t wake up early enough to say goodbye to almost everyone (that really sucked), the day turned out quite well. Lauren, Kelly, Lara, Kevin and I stored our bags in the hotel and went to lunch at the Thai restaurant for the last time, and then Lauren and Kelly went off on their adventures to Paris. Kevin did his laundry and mailed some items home while Lara and I went off to figure out how she’ll take her Eurorail pass to Brussels tomorrow. Then I stopped by the Fat Tire Bike shop to actually buy postcards … who knew that would be so difficult? I thought of the people I wanted to buy postcards for and kept feeling dissatisfied with the ones I was looking at. They meant nothing to me, so why would they mean something to the people I gave them to? I should just make postcards out of the pictures I took. But anyway, I gave in and bought some that featured places I visited. For those I promised a postcard to – don’t worry, it’s coming. The postage rate in Europe wasn’t the price I was expecting, so I’m saving some money by mailing them today in the states. I know it’s not quite the same, but the money was better spent on food I needed. I promise I wrote them in Berlin. I just haven’t sent them yet.
Anywho, Lara, Kevin and I wasted more time in the hotel lobby and then went to a store at Alexanderplatz so they could buy a tent for a Couchsurfing “beach camp” they signed up to do – it’s a four-day thing where Couchsurfers meet at a local lake, pitch tents and just hang out. When the three of us got dinner and I started thinking about sleeping at the airport, Lara talked me into joining them for the night, and the plans were set. We headed to the place and met another Couchsurfer from the Netherlands on the subway and then another from France before we got on the bus. Once we got off the bus stop, we had to walk about a kilometer down a wooded road, which just made me laugh. I probably said “this is surreal” about five times, and when I commented how the road made me think I was walking through my best friend (Amy Abel)’s backyard in Senoia, Ga., they were impressed at how wooded parts of Georgia were.
Once we finally got to the camp, it was 9:30ish and the sun was starting to set. The three of us spent about an hour laughing as we set up a tent in the dark and then ran through the sand to meet people – everyone was so open and nice, but I guess you have to be to go to a hippie camp like that. Ha. We met some girls from the U.S., a couple of guys from France and plenty of people from Germany.
I had a blast running around in the sand, playing on a see saw with Lara and swinging on swings. I convinced them to stick their feet in the lake with me, and we walked out onto a dock. We then wandered near some tents where music was playing, and it was oldies American rock, which was too funny. At one point, I think they played an entire AC/DC album.
It was probably around midnight and starting to get really cold – so we were lobbying for some blankets for Lara and Kevin, and spent the next few hours just standing around heat lamps – like the ones you see outside of bars in Athens. We were all starting to drift off because the three of us went out until 5 a.m. the night before, but Lara and Kevin promised they’d walk with me back up the road to the bus stop, and they were kind enough to stay true to their word. Even though the bus wouldn’t come until 4:50, we decided at 3:30 to head out early because we were all falling asleep. Once we got to the bus stop at 4:10, we fell asleep again. It’s just crazy to think about. When the bus pulled up, I didn’t even hug them goodbye, which is kinda sad. I guess I thought the bus would leave me or something, so I grabbed my bags, said “tchuss” and “ciao” and got on. I stumbled into a seat, turned around and waved goodbye until I couldn’t see them anymore. I bet they’re having tons of fun there. I think they both leave tomorrow – Lara to Brussels and Kevin to who knows where. I don’t think he made any plans.
I took the bus to the subway and then the subway to another bus that took me to the airport. I bet I looked like a mess all day. At any rate, I got to the airport in plenty of time to make my 7 a.m. flight. As I went through security, a guard walked me across the airport to another security checkpoint because apparently my camera bag with three lenses was “two much electronics” that they had to scan another way. I checked out OK, of course, so then I sat at the gate and almost fell asleep multiple times. I slept so hard on the flight to Paris that I didn’t get a snack. I was so mad when I woke up in Paris and saw the couple next to me had empty drink cups because I hadn’t eaten or had anything to drink since the night before.
I hate the airport in Paris. It’s designed terribly. Once we got off the plane, we had to take a bus to another part of the airport, and to transfer to my gate, I had to find the terminal and get on yet another bus. When I went through security there, they made me take out every single item in my camera bag and put it in a bin. I had no idea my lenses and microphone would be such a problem, especially because nothing happened with it on the way to Berlin. After security, I was even more irritable and thirsty, but I could only find two drink stands between the overwhelmingly strong perfume stores. At one posh drink stand, a Coke was 5 Euros, so I stomped away. At the other, it was 3.5, and I only had 2.3, so I bought the cheapest drink possible – a really cheap bottle of water for 2.1. I drank 3/4 of it right then and then found an uncomfortable chair to sleep on and off in for the next seven hours of my layover. At least the decor in the terminal was nice.
I then discovered the worst feeling in the world: Being awake and antsy and realizing you’re captive in one place for five more hours.
And then four and a half.
I’m probably exaggerating, but it really was an awful flight. Because I slept so much from Berlin to Paris and then in the Paris airport, it was hard for me to sleep on the 10-hour flight to Atlanta. I specifically remember looking at my watch with five hours left to go in disbelief and thinking, “Only half of this trip is over? How can I possibly sit here for five more hours?” I was in a funky state – my iPod was out of batteries, I didn’t want to watch what was on TV, the radio stations weren’t that great and I could only read a chapter or two in my book before I couldn’t concentrate anymore. I finally made myself sleep for 20 or 30 minutes at a time until the flight was over.
I did write a few observations on the plane:
“I can already eavesdrop on conversations, and I can see a difference in people. We’re so clearly American – fatter, tanner, we have certain faces. English is being spoken first again during directions from the pilot.”
It’s almost as if I was afraid to reflect and be sad. I still am, in a sense, because I know that that part of my life is already over – now it is just memories. And I can’t be there to share it with them. But it is interesting to think about the relationships that I developed, who I was during the trip and wonder if we will all keep our word and actually keep in touch and visit this fall. We’ll see, I guess.
I did start to watch and appreciate the Americans around me. I think that’s the one thing I gained the most during the trip – a more developed sense of observation. I enjoyed the moments when I couldn’t talk to anyone, when I had to be quiet, when I just took it all in and thought. I hope that stays with me. I know most of what’s going on right now in my head will switch back to the Carolyn I was, but I sincerely think my new found sense of observation could really help my stories (and relationships) in the future.
“Yes Man” came on again, so I figured I’d watch it to my favorite part again and start to get excited about going home, but they cut it off about 30 minutes in because some other people couldn’t hear it in their headphones. They were going to turn it off for 10 minutes and restart it, but instead restarted the system and put on “Marley & Me,” which I have vowed to never watch because I know it’ll make me sad. So what did I do? I watched it. I had nothing better to do. And then I was sad. Duh Carolyn.
But I did think quite a bit. When I would doze off in light sleep, I would think about the rest of the summer, the fall, newspapers in general, my life in general. It was interesting, and I hope I can get most of those thoughts back.
I did get to eat, and I did observe some funny things around me – like the old couple next to me that kept ordering vodka tonics. And at one point the guy kept staring at me, trying to read what I was writing. What a creeper. Ha.
As I’m typing this up, I’m listening to music (once again, nothing else to do. I bet those DirecTV suckers won’t come until I need to leave for lunch with Megan and Shesh) and thinking about how much music touches me. It really does move me, and I want it to continue to. I want to take music with me back to Athens and just feel it. I want it to comfort me as I work in Gainesville, and I want it to unwind me during my stressful days this fall. That’s the biggest thing I learned in Berlin, I think — My life can be so stressful. I knew this already, but to relax with Berliners and hear that they get three or four weeks of vacation per year and their other social benefits makes me realize how much Americans kill ourselves. I like capitalism, for sure, but what are we seriously doing to the least of us who really need to just get by, just live and have health care, a job, a place to sleep in and help?
Geez, my thoughts are seriously winding all over the place. They’re not organized at all, but I’m over it. As the Tom Petty song says that I’m listening to, “It’s time to move on,” so I need to do that. I’ve been reading the blogs and Facebook updates of my classmates during the trip, and it’s like I have to quit it cold turkey, which is probably good for me. Most of those who I got closest to are still traveling and can’t really talk, and the others who are home aren’t updating their blogs much yet.
At any rate, you can see how much I’ve thought and how much this trip has opened my eyes. I wish everyone could go on a trip like this, and I hope I can go on many more.
So I’ve taken many things from Berlin, and I left a few things as well – plenty of money, five pounds (somehow, I guess I should walk more in the U.S. ha ha) and a piece of my heart, it seems.
And now I have some goals (expressed simply here): I want to be a better storyteller, and I want to shoot better photos. I want to be a better writer and editor, and I want to be enthusiastic with all that I do this summer, fall, and in the future with my craft. This is my craft. This is my future. I want to enjoy it.
Once I got into Atlanta, the customs process was a little irritating. I didn’t go through customs in Paris or Berlin the entire trip (kinda weird). I had to declare everything I had with me (uhhh three scarves and some postcards …), claim my bags and then recheck my bags before going to actually claim them. A little bizarre, Atlanta. But it was good to meet up with Mom and for all the headache flying gave me, it was all worth it when I saw a man near baggage claim holding balloons, roses and a large sign:
“Mrs. Stewart: Welcome home. Happy anniversary to my beautiful wife.”
Humanity is great sometimes.
Mom and I grabbed some French fries, a Frosty and a Dr. Pepper as my first meal home request, and then I talked as we drove home. I actually stayed up until midnight and then slept until noon yesterday. We saw Angels & Demons, which I thought was pretty good. It’s funny how I evaluated parts of it through my recent trip, as far as the stereotypes of the different cultures and whatnot. All I can say is, it must be fun to be Ron Howard. And the salty popcorn was really good.
Once we got home from the movies, I napped for three hours. I woke up to eat and then went back to sleep at 9 p.m. until about 5 a.m. this morning. I had a hard time convincing myself to go back to sleep, but I dozed off until 8 a.m. and then mom left for work. The DirecTV guy is finally here, and now I’m full circle once more.
I hope I didn’t bore you too much. It’s time to get goin, time to reflect but get back into my real life. I want to keep posting, but it’ll probably be less frequent and only when I have a funny story or an interesting photo. Thank you, Berlin, for all you’ve done for me. Here’s to my next summer adventure.